Monday, 23 November 2009

Who's for some deep fried food?

A few things I have observed over the past few weeks have lead me to conclude that the ‘pure food believers’ are still in the minority (big time) in my hemisphere.

I’m talking about people who, for instance, demand free range eggs, only, be used in their cooking; people who want to know the provenance of their food; people who are passionate about buying locally, thus supporting their own community and knowing intimate details about their food and its producers.

I’m of the belief that the majority of the populace (well, here in Hobart anyway) are of the opinion that value for money far outweighs any health consideration every time they buy food or food ingredients. Hence a suburban fast food outlet can reap huge rewards, financially, well above a more perceived upper market venue that charges substantially more for their menu items than the fast-fooder.

I ate at a small suburban Chinese eatery last Saturday night at the behest of friends who insisted I would LOVE the food at this place, and who insisted on paying for me after we ate. Whilst the food was satisfactory and the décor normal for such a shop, the whole place screamed cheap ingredients, cheap fitout, cheap staffing – everything cheap. Thus when the bill averaged out at $15 a head which included entrees, mains and rice to more than satisfy 5 adults, the fact that no one walked out feeling truly invigorated after their healthy meal hit home with me.

The guys spent the balance of the evening congratulating themselves on yet another meal where they had kicked the savings goal and managed to fill their tummies with food they assured us would have cost way more to buy, prepare and serve than what they’d just forked out at the till of the Chinese restaurant!

They are probably correct, but that, to me, is not the pinnacle of success in life. It saddens me to see this fact graphically demonstrated in front of me daily, in a lot of cases by those I am closest to.

I have never been one who wants or needs to foist my beliefs down others throats. I believe in live and let live. But it’s hugely frustrating to see those around me sacrificing health to the fast or cheap food demon.

At one of my daughter’s places on Saturday, I found her watching a recording of a cable TV program called, I think, Man vs Food, where a guy force-fed himself the most disgusting amounts of crap food I’ve ever seen down his own throat in this sensationalist program. Need I add that it was American? Well, I suppose it could just as easily have been Australian, so I’ll take that judgement back!

Whilst the guy himself seemed like a nice guy with good intentions, what came across to me was the fact that the message clearly was that the biggest amounts of fried food of all varieties clearly reigned supreme. The more of this stuff you could force down your gullet, the better a person you were! But if he were a goose being force-fed for subsequent eating by me, I’m afraid I’d have to pass, as I’m positive his flavour would reflect his eating habits, and he’d taste gross!

Posted on by Rita


steve said...

Hi Rita. I enjoyed this post. To get the disclaimer out of the way first, I love deep fried stuff now & again, too much it seems. However a curious thing is finally dawning on me after years of supposedly treating myself to it in the form of ‘reward’ or hangover cure or just being lazy, I find it really disagreeing with me. Morgon Spurlock told us of his lethargy a sense of anti climax & general feelings of unease after consuming many meals at Macca’s all of which I can attest to.
What I find most interesting in your post is this notion of that your party were chuffed that they were ‘getting away with not paying much’ for their food, no matter the cost to them health wise or to the proprietors of that humble café eking out a living.
Sure we all like a bargain but I think this is an indicator of a broader malaise.
Firstly I have always been uneasy with the relationship many people have with ethnic food specifically when it comes to the price or perceived cheapness of it.
Many people have come to expect & in some ways demand that much Asian food in particular will always be cheap. Why is this so?
One reason could be that we simply don’t rate the cuisine of say the south East Asian countries to say, the cuisine of France. This will always relegate it to the level entry market of humble cafes & food courts. However this prejudiced view completely ignores the possibly thousands of years of tradition that has honed this cuisine.
Another point is that it may also be a way of culturally ghetto-ising people, sort of keeping them in their place by deeming their food at the lower end of the market.
Interestingly with Indian food, there is an expectation that it is slightly pricier than your average Asian take away or café. Running with this theme, I am beginning to wonder if you could to a price correlation with different types of ethnic foods as a sort of Litmus test to see where those cultures stand & how we value them.

Rita said...

Steve - I'm there with you, let me also make the disclaimer upfront! I love nothing better than a spring roll or chips and many other varieties of fried food. Have not had a Chiko Roll for many moons but often have a craving for one, especially when I see someone else eating one! No - my issue is that my reality is that I know deep down that these foods truly aren't good for not only me, but everyone.

So, I measure my fast food eating. I probably give into the temptation of a drive-through HJ's maybe twice a year. But like you, it actually physically affects me, as all close to me will hasten to attest! It goes straight through me! I'm devastated by this refusal of my own body to disobey my wishes but that's how it is.

I was interested in your cultural food points too. I have never thought of Asian food and ghetto-ing races that way, so will need to ponder on that one a while. Once again, food for thought....

ut si said...

I've turned down many an invite for the reasons you describe above...just can't eat at these establishments nor endure the company of friends/family who regularly do. I think you're on to something Steve. Will send post to Prof.

Michelle said...

Interesting post and comments Rita.

I once read a great food related quote, in a Matthew Evans column I think, along the lines of " Fast, Cheap, Good. Pick the most important two because you can't have all three."

hrv said...

Me Wah - a classic example of Hobartians thinking that because it is Chinese it should be cheap. Give it a rest. Good fit out, some of the best service you are likely to encounter in Tasmania and when they are doing their authentic dishes, sensational. Unfortunately chicken feet, jellyfish and turnip cake are just way out there for most locals. So back to the deep fried staples the Me Wah chef must go.

GP summed it up well a couple of years ago. 'We do not respect our ethnic eateries and their traditional cuisines, so they end up being dumbed down pale examples'.

On the subject of 'pure food believers', I will agree with you Rita. No one in my friends or family circle see any benefit in this. My family (wife and two kids) follow a fairly strist regime of only free range eggs, meat from good provenance, no GM food etc. Yes it can cost a packet more and no I am not really any healthier and certainly not slimmer, but I am happier and know what goes into my body.

Christina said...

Toatally off post but has anyone heard any reports about "the Macquarie Grill"?
Apparently, but I could be mistaken, it's at the old Leisure Inn in Macquarie St. I know there used to be a restaurant with a ladies photo but I can't remember the name and it's driving me nuts.
Went to Me Wah last week and was so impressed. Finally got to try the a la carte menu and it was divine. I had pork belly for an entree and duck, chicken and prawn in an oyster sauce for my main. Absolutely delicious. The service, atmosphere, food all go into a wonderful experience.
Going to Darjoh's on December 20 for yum cha. very exciting.

Rita said...

Thanks Colette.
Good one Michelle!
HRV - good to hear your 10c worth.
You'd be talking about Maria's at the Macquarie Inn, I reckon Christina?
Glad you enjoyed yourself at Me Wah, and overjoyed you're off to Darjoh's on the 20th. Bec and I ate there last Fri night and had a lovely meal (again). Bec hadn't eaten there before, and I had previously promised her Hobart's best Thai Beef Salad - and she admitted to her surprise that I was right!

Victor said...

Another great post, Rita. Though I may agree with you on most of the points, but I can say that it is in my opinion only true here in Hobart; with the exception of Me Wah and The Bund which deliver good Cantonese (Me Wah) and Szechuan (The Bund) cuisines, nothing of the fast, cheap, greasy fried stuffs.

SEA cuisines refers to Vietnamese, Thai, Laos, Cambodian, Malaysian, Singaporean, Indonesian, Philippine and Burmese food. I wonder how many restaurants in Hobart can claim to be truly authentic to the cuisine without being cheap, fast and greasy. Are we able to lift our tastes and standard for SEA food to match those in Melb and Sydney? Maybe there is Darjoh and Vanidol (GP's most talk about and benchmark of every new Asian establishment in town). But, are they really cheap and mostly deep fried? I doubt it.

sir grumpy said...

You are spot on, Rita. After me and the missus went to the movies, we traipsed around Hobart looking for Chinese.
The places at Centerpoint and Cat & Fiddle couldn't lure us to eat after we had a look.
It was baine marie and tired and sloppy looking. So was another place on Harrington St. It's quite embarrassing hovering at these places to the expectant look of the owners and then having to say ``sorry'' and shuffling off.
Whatever happened to the flying wok in a good chef's hands, flinging in good ingredients and dishing it up freshly?
Ah well, dream on.

lemon curd said...

- A good noodle soup from Vena
- Curries from Tokoyo & Seoul
- Used to enjoy Cool Thai in N Hobart, but they started using a lot of MSG in their cooking :(
- Me Wah (especially the service, want to impress anyone order the peking duck and watch it being prepared on a gueridon trolley at your table :)
- Still can't go past Siam Garden in the city for a (what were my choices? Fast, Cheap and Good?) cheap good feed !

And it occurs to me with the exception of Me Wah that I have rattled off establishments that conform to the 'Asian food has to be cheap to be good' mantra...

Are there any other cuisines that suffer? Italian Pizza/Pasta joints v Good Italian restaurants - but there is a tiny stigma that Italian food has to be cheap to be enjoyable... I think this is also true of Mexican in Australia?
French? I can't think of any popular French fast food (don't say fries please!) that has made it's way outside of France...Crepes maybe?